|Ireland: Cardinal Brady launches Pastoral Plan for Armagh
|Tuesday, November 4, 2008 2:30 pm.
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| Cardinal Seán Brady, the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland yesterday, the Feast of St Malachy, launched a process for strengthening parishes in the Archdiocese. The objective is to sustain parishes as vibrant faith communities for the 21st century. The launch took place at a press conference in the Synod Hall of St Patrick's Cathedral, Armagh. A Pastoral Letter detailing this initiative was made available at all the Masses in the diocese over the weekend.
The process has three steps which will be implemented over the next three years. Fr Andrew McNally and Dr Tony Hanna of the Diocesan Pastoral Council are coordinating and overseeing the design and implementation of this Parish Re-organisation Plan. The faithful are invited to contribute to the process and will be consulted throughout.
The first step in the process will be the clustering of parishes for the purpose of sharing resources. This does not mean the amalgamating of parishes. There will be a meeting in each parish before Christmas and again in Lent to determine which parishes will cluster and how many parishes there will be in each cluster. Importantly each parish will maintain its own unique identity.
The second step will be to assess the resources that each cluster has and the resources each cluster needs. This will happen between September 2009 and June 2010. As a part of this work we will address such matters as:
- how many priests are to serve in each parish in the cluster;
- what resources are to be allocated to the employment of lay leaders in the cluster;
- the number of Masses to be celebrated at the weekend and on weekdays in each Church in the cluster.
A third step, beginning in September 2010, will be to develop and create new parish structures and ministries that will enable the parishes to continue to function and develop as vibrant Christian communities. Some of these ministries might include the employment of lay people to administrative or pastoral roles within a cluster. Some of the structures might include the establishment of a pastoral co-ordination council for the cluster.
These new parish structures and ministries will enable the parishes to grow as communities of worship, witness, outreach and faith. They will encourage parishioners to continue Christ's mission in the community, society and the world.
While the goal of this process is the strengthening of parishes, the process announced today is a response to rapidly changing times. Influencing factors include the declining number of priests, the decline in Sunday Mass attendance, a revitalised appreciation of the role of all the baptised in the life of the Church and the importance of ensuring that the Eucharist is fittingly celebrated in every parish every weekend.
Speaking at the launch Cardinal Brady said: "At the recent Synod in Rome the Church was referred to as the House of the Word of God. We can say therefore that the parish is the house of the Word of God. It is in the parish that we mostly hear the word of God and it is the parish community that has the task of proclaiming the Word of God. It is important therefore that we strengthen our parishes so that they can proclaim the Word of God, carry on the mission of Christ and respond to pastoral needs.
"There are, I think, a number of factors that lead us to move towards the clustering of parishes and the development of new parish structures and ministries at this time. Not least is the simple fact that we live in rapidly changing times and every organisation has to adapt to change. The Church too has to adapt and change so that it can more effectively carry on the mission of Christ. It is our love for Christ, the Word of God, which inspires us to face the challenges that changing times demand."
Cardinal Brady concluded by saying: "The Archdiocese of Armagh is a communion of faith communities, which are committed to each other. As we embark on this process of renewing our structures we will rely on this spirituality of communion among all of us to strengthen our parishes as vibrant faith communities in this 21st century. I ask the faithful to pray to the Holy Spirit to guide as we work through this important task."
There are 61 parishes in the diocese. Based on the diocesan records of 2007 the diocese has in the region of 58,100 Catholic families and in the region of 213,600 Catholics. The Archdiocese of Armagh has 138 diocesan priests.
1 is under the age of 30
17 are aged between 30 and 39
23 are aged between 40 and 49
24 are aged between 50 and 59
26 are aged between 60 and 69
34 are aged between 70 and 79
13 are aged 80 and over.
Of the 138 diocesan priests:
101 are in parish ministry
7 are in diocesan ministry
1 is working abroad
1 is on study leave
2 are on sick leave
26 are retired.
There are a further 21 non-diocesan priests in parish and chaplaincy ministry on behalf of the diocese.
12 diocesan priests over 75 are still in active ministry.
Of the 138 diocesan priests 109 are presently under 75.
Of the 138 diocesan priests 83 would be under 75 if all were still to be in active ministry in 2018.
Of the 138 diocesan priests 54 would be under 75 if all were still to in active ministry in 2028.
For more information see: www.armagharchdiocese.org